, 21 May, 2020 / 3:36 AM
The recent abduction and torture of women, including political leaders in Zimbabwe, has caught the attention of leaders of the various Christian denominations in the Southern African nation who have, in a collective statement, denounced the gender-based “inhumane treatment” and called for urgent and independent investigations into the matter.
“The Zimbabwe Heads of Christian Denominations (ZHOCD) has received with shock and disbelief the news of yet another abduction and inhuman treatment of three young women including a Member of Parliament,” the church leaders lamented in their collective statement dated May 17.
They added, “There are many reasons why all peace-loving and patriotic Zimbabweans should be appalled by such abductions and torture.”
“(This) is against the heart of the Constitution of Zimbabwe and the various International Conventions to which Zimbabwe is a signatory and, above all, to our cultural norms and our Christian fundamental beliefs regarding the sanctity and dignity of life,” the church leaders noted.
Three female members of the main opposition party in the country were reportedly arrested Wednesday, May 13 while demonstrating against the government’s COVID-19 response only to be found, days later, dumped by the roadside in the north of the capital city, Harare.
The alleged violence against the women leaders comes weeks after two sisters, Ntombizodwa and Nokhuthula Mpofu, were brutally assaulted by police officers in Cowdray Park, in the southwest city of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe.
“It is deeply disturbing that the country has seen so many cases of abductions in the last few months, most of which have not been conclusively investigated,” the church leaders lamented in their collective statement and added, “What is further disturbing are the insinuations, from some State agents, that all these abductions are either stage-managed or carried out by an unrecognizable “third force” without substantiating such claims with credible and irrefutable evidence. This constitutes the denigration of responsibility of the highest order on the part of Government.”
In their statement, the church leaders also regret the fact that “this ill-treatment of women takes place in 2020 when the whole world is celebrating the 25th Anniversary of the Beijing Declaration, which was a global high point in the recognition of the dignity of women after centuries of patriarchal domination and treatment of women as second class citizens of the world.”
“We have realized that one of the major effects of the COVID-19 lockdown has been the worrying increase in domestic violence, especially against women and children. It is unthinkable that such violence could be replicated in even more severe proportions with State sanction,” the representatives of ZHOCD bemoaned.
The Church leaders are also appalled to see how “women could suffer in the custody of the State, not only in the case of these three women but also the brutal assault of the two women from Cowdray Park in Bulawayo on 16 April by six police officers.”
Following the cases of violence against women, ZHOCD representatives that include the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference (ZCBC), the Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe (EFZ), the Union for the Development of Apostolic Churches in Zimbabwe Africa (UDACIZA) and the Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC) have outlined some measures to address the situation.
They have called for “the institution of an urgent independent investigation” into the circumstances around the attack on the two sisters and the female opposition leaders and recommended that findings “be made public with appropriate and swift disciplinary action be instituted against perpetrators.”
The church leaders have also called for “an end to the undermining of the Constitutional rights of citizens in the guise of COVID-19 intervention.”
Further, they have called for “the immediate restoration of the integrity of Parliament so that it can exercise its oversight of the Government” and urged “all security officers to honorably discharge their duties while upholding the dignity, decency and sanctity of human life.”
They have also urged all institutions of the State, especially the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission, Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission, Gender Commission and the National Prosecution Authority, "to exercise their constitutional responsibilities ensuring that the state and every person, including the juridic persons, and every institution and agency of the Government at every level respect, promote, protect and fulfill the rights and freedoms set out” in the Zimbabwean Constitution.
The representatives of ZHOCD want business leaders, civil society organizations, churches, political parties and traditional leaders to “commit to an urgent petition against arbitrary abduction of torture according to the Constitution of Zimbabwe and relevant international conventions.”
They have also called on Zimbabweans “to continue observing and adhering to measures and regulations of the national lockdown in order to arrest the further spread of the coronavirus.”
“We extend our collective prayers for their full speedy healing and recovery,” the church leaders concluded.
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ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.
Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa